As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
– Matthew 9:9
You see from this passage a humility that is typical of Jesus’ apostles. This is all that Matthew says about himself in the gospel that he wrote!
Matthew was a tax collector – an occupation attracting even less respect in 1st-century Israel than it does in 21st-century America. That Jesus chose him to be among the twelve indicates, among other things, that we judge poorly when we judge a man’s character according to his occupation. God sees the heart.
The simplicity of Matthew’s description of what happened is striking. Jesus called; Matthew responded. It shows what mattered and displays a transactional simplicity – just what you might expect from someone who had to keep books.
As Jesus called then, so He still calls today: “Follow Me!” Yet the “following” for us is different from what it was in Matthew’s time. Jesus no longer wears an earth suit – that is, He is no longer confined to a body as we still are. When Matthew followed Jesus, he had a man whose physical footsteps he could follow with his own physical footsteps. We, however, must follow spiritually if we are going to follow at all.
We know that we are not to follow Jesus by donning 1st-century Middle Eastern garments, nor by wearing sandals, nor by traveling to Israel. We must follow Him in spirit. What does this mean?
Jesus lived a life of sacrificing Himself to His Father’s will for the good of His fellow man. We follow Jesus by sacrificing ourselves to His will for the good of our fellow man.
We do not follow Jesus by changing our occupation. Rather, we stay in our occupation but cease pursuing it for our own success and instead pursue it for His will, His glory, and His purpose.
Now, if you are a professional thief or prostitute, by all means, change your occupation. Assuming, however, that your occupation is legal, you do not need to change it in order to follow Jesus. You just need to reform Your motives to match His.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, show me how I can stop pursuing my own interests in my occupation and focus fully on pursuing Yours. I want my motives to be pure…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)